Asia Art Archive in India and Inlaks India Foundation are pleased to announce Shaheen Ahmed as the grantee for the AAA–Inlaks Art Grant 2023–24.

This is the fourth grant made possible through the collaboration between AAA in India and Inlaks India Foundation. For this edition of the year-long art grant, the jury—which included the Chennai-based researcher, curator, and arts administrator Bhooma Padmanabhan, the Bengaluru-based artist Archana Hande, along with members of AAA in India and Inlaks India Foundation—selected one proposal after an open call in September 2023.

Ahmed’s project for the grant, Between Ruhānī and Jismānī: Living, Sensorial Archives of Lakshadweep Islands will explore aspects of the Sufi cosmos and spiritual imagination in the region’s collective memory, rendered through a series of experimental docufiction films. Working collaboratively with writers, researchers, collectors, and collectives from the islands, the project will map and locate the “imaginal” pasts of the islanders that persist as living, sensorial archives, in the form of oral traditions, Sufi rituals, and performative practices. Drawing on the medieval Andalusian Islamic philosopher and mystic, Ibn al-Arabi’s concept of khayāl (imagination), the project situates dreams as the imaginal realm between our corporeal and spiritual existence, allowing abstract meanings to take on concrete form. In the traditional narratives of Lakshadweep, the imaginal is seamlessly integrated into the tangible forms of performance, rituals, and routines.

It is from this understanding of the imaginal that Ahmed will undertake intensive field research and audio-visual practice across several islands of the Lakshadweep to collect and record stories, legends, and dreams from islanders. Some of these, such as the maala/maala pattu (a form of ballad retelling of the past in the Lakshadweep Islands and Malabar Coast) will be creatively re-enacted and performed by those associated with its production, circulation, and preservation. These materials will form the basis for a script that Ahmed will develop in collaboration with writers from the region, which together with images and sounds recorded during the fieldwork, will result in four, twenty-minute episodes of a series of docufiction films. The project will also aim to workshop these materials with small groups of young people in order to foster independent projects from the islanders in future years.

Ahmed’s grant commences on 1 January 2024. 

Shaheen Ahmed is a filmmaker from the Malabar Coast of Kerala. He was previously a multimedia producer at The Caravan Magazine in New Delhi. His work spans intimate portrait films, experimental essays, and engages thoughts on memory and identity. He is currently developing experimental art projects based on the cultural heritage of the Malabar Coast and Lakshadweep Islands. He is a graduate of the DocNomads documentary filmmaking programme based in Lisbon, Budapest, and Brussels.

The AAA–Inlaks Art Grant aims to encourage artists and creative practitioners to test new forms of art-making that incorporate research, collaboration, workshops, and formal experiments as a way to examine the technologies and ecosystems of information that shape our times. The grant has been initiated as part of AAA’s ongoing endeavour to support critical approaches and bold thinking around the archive as concept, as medium, and as systems.



Jury for AAA-Inlaks Art Grant 2023–24

Archana Hande is an artist based in Bangalore. Hande has exhibited both locally and internationally, including more recently at Sharjah Biennial 15 (2023), the 5th Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2022–23); and the 12th Seoul Mediacity Biennale (2023). Hande co-curated Project Cinema City (Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Berlin, 2012), and was a curator for States of Disarray: Practice as Restitution at the Students’ Biennale in the 4th edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2020–21), among other research and curatorial initiatives. Hande trained in printmaking at Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati University, Shantiniketan (1986–91) and MS University of Baroda (1991–93).

Bhooma Padmanabhan is a Chennai-based researcher, curator, and arts administrator. She is currently the manager of Mrinalini Mukherjee Foundation, and runs their grant programmes and projects. She co-curated Maps of Disquiet for the 3rd Chennai Photo Biennale in its physical and virtual forms (2021–22), and A Million Mutinies Later: India at 70, an exhibition of Indian photography held in Cardiff, Wales, with Nazar Foundation (2017). She was part of the team that researched and published on the state of art schools in India for the Students’ Biennale at the 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2018–19).


Supported by Inlaks India Foundation

The Inlaks India Foundation focuses on providing grants and awards in various fields to outstanding young Indians to develop their professional, scientific, artistic, and cultural abilities.

Asia Art Archive in India (AAA in India) was established in 2013 in New Delhi with the goal of building resources for research on the region’s dynamic contemporary art scene. It accomplishes this mission by digitising artist and scholarly archives, developing research projects, and organising programmes. AAA in India’s digitised research collections can be accessed from its space in New Delhi, which is open to the public. Since 2023, AAA in India has been invested in opening up and activating its Reading Room as a space for discussions, gatherings, and experimentation on and around archives and libraries, inviting artists and other creative practitioners from the region.